After an 18-month search, authorities in Italy believe they've finally identified Geco, a mysterious Italian street artist often referred to as the country's Banksy, The New York Times reports. His blocky moniker has adorned Rome's subway stations, bridges, buildings, and parks – infuriating the city's mayor.
"Hundreds of spray cans, thousands of stickers, ropes, fire extinguishers, cords, locks, six mobile phones, computers, brushes, rollers and buckets of paint," Mayor Virginia Raggi wrote triumphantly on Facebook last week, "This is the material that the Environment and Decoro Nucleus of our local police seized from the Roman writer known as Geco."
Once considered "uncatchable," the elusive street artist now faces up to two years in prison and fines. Though he might not have achieved the same notoriety as Banksy, and though he hasn't yet been formally charged, the Roman police and the city's mayor have been celebrating Geco's recent unmasking.
The city authorities didn't directly disclose Geco’s real name, but according to Italian news outlets, the artist is thought to be in his late 20s and originally from Rome.
The Geco sting was carried out by an 18-month-old environmental police task force that works directly for the mayor’s office (Geco landed in the crosshairs of the mayor after he accidentally tagged Secret Service hide-out thinking it was an abandoned building). They claimed damage to city property as well as various other buildings and green spaces.
But not everyone is impressed with the allocation of resources. While graffiti is a problem in the Italian city, many Romans believe that the city should have been working to address potholes, infrequent garbage collection, and the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic rather than hunting down a street artist.
Geco’s lawyer, Domenico Melillo, is also a street artist known as Frode. He argued that Rome's mayors have historically cracked down on graffiti as a way to forge a political consensus, adding, “They want to show that they’re doing something.”